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Punish the Sinners

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  3,552 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Italy 1252. Inquisition. Accusation. Fear.  Torture. The guilty and the innocent dying for sins real  and imagined in the flames of the burning stake.  Neilsville, 1978. Peter Blasam has come to this  sleepy desert town to teach its youth, and finds a  mystery of mounting horror. Something is happening  to the young girls of St. Francis Xavier High  School -- something evi ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published May 2nd 1990 by Dell (first published 1978)
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3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,552 ratings  ·  90 reviews

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Julie (A Girl and a Book)
Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
**3.5** I enjoyed this book so much more than I was expecting to. Saul's writing is super easy to read and the story sucked me in from the beginning. I found the idea of the extreme Catholic Church very frightening and really enjoyed how he chose to end it. Overall I was really impressed and will definitely pick up another one of his books in the future!
Josh Caporale
Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
John Saul is among a class of horror and thriller writers I feel deserves so much more attention than he gets. I read When the Wind Blows and Suffer the Children, so I was looking forward to reading my third novel of Saul's and did so as a buddy read with Julie from A Girl and a Book on Booktube. I felt When the Wind Blows was really good, while Suffer the Children was good. I would say that Punish the Sinners falls in between, where I feel that it was dark and brutal, yet I feel that in this se ...more
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of John’s Saul's best. It had a lot more depth then some of his other books and I don’t mean that in a bad way because I think John Saul is a great writer. But he’s a horror writer. One does not always get the depth one wants in horror.

I really liked Punish the sinner.s I found the topic fascinating and I got attached to Peter Balsam who made a great main character. Now however is the time I must put in a spoiler alert because I plan on speaking about the ending.


Like othe
Coushatta LaRue
Mar 30, 2013 rated it did not like it
I listened to this while driving and it was very... odd. I love a good mystery but this book just did not catch me. And the ending was out of the blue and my reaction to it was, "Are you serious? What the heck." The book was not bad but not something I am into. Oh spolier alert!

I thought some of the characters did ridiculous things. Like, when er... I forget the names but his girlfriend and him had sex after she tells him he was raped and molested by all these men. He had not even showered or br
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is very special to me cause this was my very first book I read from Mr. Saul. I loved this book and it was so very twisted and scary.
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
All I can say about this book without giving any spoilers is I love it when a book doesn't end how the reader whats it really breaks away from the normal and leaves me wanted more.....
Angela Kalnins
Punish the Sinners
By John Saul
Genre: Horror

I have several favorite horror authors—my GO-TO set. Stephen King, Dean Koontz and John Saul. Although, to be truly honest, I really prefer Saul’s later work. Occasionally, however, I will choose to look back at some of John Saul’s earlier books. This is one.

Like so many of his stories, this one starts with a prologue. A little boy is playing in his parent’s bedroom when he hears them coming up the stairs. He hides in the closet. He’s not supposed to be
Brian Schwartz
Sep 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
While not being exceptionally well written, Punish the Sinners stands apart in the John Saul canon.

Most John Saul novels are simply stories. They have no subtext or social commentary. Punish The Sinners examines the conflict between traditional Catholic Church doctrine versus a more contemporary view. This is the only novel where Saul examines any subject of any consequence.

Saul’s views are quite clear on the subject. The strong beliefs and unyielding passion of Peter Vernon were certainly cast
Jan 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
This, to me, seemed more like a horror novel written specifically for Catholics but I did enjoy it, despite my distance from that sect. I thought it had some interesting concepts in regards to some of the more obscure saints and what an American Inquisition would look like. I wish we might've been able to delve deeper into the psychological make-up of Peter Vernon once his true past is revealed to us but I understand that these types of pulp fiction aren't expected to get too lofty. All and all, ...more
Jul 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Not sure what I was expecting, but I wanted more from this book. The basic plot seemed very repetitive and the final outcome didn't leave me fulfilled. There was not a sense of building suspense or press for time to help move the story along and make it more involving. The main characters also seemed very thin without much development. Just a bit disappointed.
Enjoyable, but not great writing. This was early on in Saul's writing career, so perhaps it gets better (view spoiler)
John Hanscom
Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
SPOILER - however much a book may be exciting, if, at the end, nothing has really happened, it is a waste.
I loved this book!! great story!! 2nd book I have read by this author!! will read more of his books!!
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: horror
Ever see a comedy or cartoon where the character says, “I was not expecting that?” Well, Punish the Sinners had that effect on me—only it wasn’t funny. Indeed, as one might expect upon knowing how famous John Saul is within the horror genre, there isn’t anything intended (as far as one can tell) to be funny or even provide comedy relief. I grabbed the book on the premise of an ancient evil from the Inquisition trying to permeate its way into a modern (but very traditional and very uptight) town. ...more
Apr 28, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 13, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, re-read
Rediscovering John Saul Book Number 2

Punish the Sinners is the type of story that, when it was originally published, would probably shock many readers. The plot revolves around a small town, Catholic community that is rocked by a so-called "suicide contagion" that is claiming the lives of students of St. Francis Xavier High School. What's causing the students to commit these sinful acts? Could it be the new Psychology teacher putting evil thoughts into the minds of the innocent youth? Or is it s
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: re-read

This was just weird - old saints and girls committing suicide which we all knew was murder. The how it was done was very convoluted - I won't go into it here due to spoilers but I think my idea was more fun. The book wasn't scary at all. It was more like a "how dunnit" vs. "whodunnit" because I knew who did it immediately. I think the reader is supposed to question the lead character's sanity but I never did. There was no suspense for me just the how. There were also
Mar 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: any1
Shelves: horror
i was gripped from the prologue! this was a very interesting book! new teacher comes to town to teach psychology in a catholic school. the monsignor is a childhood friend of his that summons him to the town. suicides start happening. theres accusations. i wont go into details to spoil anything. but this was a really interesting horror and mystery! the mystery being WHY all the things start happenin! i loved the book! i read some other peoples reviews of this book, and the really negative reviews ...more
Prajnya Sanil
Jun 24, 2017 rated it liked it
this is 4th book i am reading of john saul...hmmmm it was good i really liked the concept and way it was presented....story starts with girl killing her parents and her brother sole witness of this crime is sent to convent....and den story takes lyk 30-40 years leap dis guy peter balsam comes to this wierd creepy town nashville to teach psychology and this job was offered to him by his friend whose name is also peter...Strange things start taking place girls start commiting suicide slashing thei ...more
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars rounded up to 5. A lush psycho-religious thriller with interesting turns (I knew where this was headed right away, but that was a lucky guess. Saul constructed it well.) I like early John Saul, and that sprawling 70's style, rich with drama, immersed me into the characters' minds and lives. It's not high in outright horror, but rather a precursor to those psychological thriller films of the 90s. Well done!
Haven't read early John Saul since I was a teenager. Can't remember hardly a thing other than they scared me at the time and contributed to my love of horror. I can't imagine any of his books would have the same effect on me now. John Saul just isn't that good of a writer, even all these years later, I don't think he's gotten any better.
Sep 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
This is one of the worst books I have ever finished reading. I was hoping it would get better, but did not. The subject matter is strange (Catholicism and sex) and the story is awful. There are gruesome details followed by weak descriptions... The ending is the worst part, almost like the author could not find a way to end it.
Ubong Udoessien
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm surprised at the unfavorable comments. John has an old style to his writing that is lacking in a lot of books I've read in recent years. This is my first book with him and i'm taken! This was an enjoyable read because i finished it in less than 2 days.
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Long time since I have read a John Saul novel. Not great, but pretty good. More like 3 1/2 stars. Definitely not a predictable ending. Good enough that I'll likely read more of his books.
Mili Guthová
Oct 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Terrifying, disgusting and absolutely perfectly written. It was long time since I read something from this genre and I wasn't disapointed. John Saul is perfect reading for nights.
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
What on earth did I just read? This was a bizarre story that drove to an even more bizarre ending. We're at "if VC Andrews was Catholic" levels here, which I did not expect from Saul. Weird.
Nov 14, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not so hot

Poorly proofread and badly edited. Does no one notice proper grammar or spelling anymore? Plot unbelievable. Sorry I wasted my day on this one.
Cletus Van
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
John Saul is one of the best unsung pulp horror writters around. I love wandering into the mustier sections of used book stores to seek his work out. I fell in love with the whole atmosphere of Punish the Sinner. I could not put this book down. I could see Ti West make this into an incredible film adaptation.
This was pretty terrible, but it was a formative book of my late childhood/very early adolescence -- it taught me what a suicide contagion is, and a monsignor, and the Inquisition -- so it was a fun reread.
Jacqueline Smith
Nov 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Meh. Just meh. Not my cup of tea, I guess. I love John Saul but I don't feel it's his best work. The book was fast paced and kept my attention, but I found the characters unlikable and the ending anticlimactic.
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John Saul grew up in Whittier California where he graduated from Whittier High School in 1959. He attended several colleges—Antioch, in Ohio, Cerritos, in Norwalk, California, Montana State University and San Francisco State College, variously majoring in anthropology, liberal arts, and theater, but never obtaining a degree.
After leaving college, he decided the best thing for a college dropout to